The CBS Web site promoted the story this way:

Home schooling is becoming an educational option for more and more families across the country, but is it also keeping abused and neglected children away from the eyes of authorities? Our Vince Gonzales will take a look in tonight's Eye on America, and he'll bring us the story of a household in North Carolina where kids hidden from public sight met a tragic end.

Leading up to, and during the course of, the CBS Evening News, CBS touted their story this way: "The Trouble with Homeschooling," "Child Abuse Undetected," and "Eye on America investigates a dark side of homeschooling."

Dan Rather

Dan Rather opened the October 13, CBS Evening News report on homeschooling with these remarks:

An estimated 2 percent of children in this country get their schooling at home. You've heard the success stories and there are many. This homeschooled child won a big spelling bee; that child, a geography bee; and most parents involved in homeschooling have their children's best interests at heart. But in an Eye on America investigation, CBS's Vince Gonzales uncovered a dark side to this largely unregulated system of education.

The Dark Side of Homeschooling?

Just what is this "dark side" that CBS uncovered? Hal Young, president of North Carolinians for Home Education (NCHE), was interviewed by a CBS correspondent about two weeks ago and said this:

Originally, they (CBS) planned to use a sensational North Carolina case from 2001 to illustrate their thesis: families with abusive or criminal tendencies may go undetected if they are homeschooling; i.e., not under the daily scrutiny of the public school system. However, the producer told me on Friday that the report had been expanded to include cases from other states.

In the North Carolina case, about two years ago a teenager killed his brother and sister, then himself; the news media immediately reported this as a homeschooling family. As the case developed, it was reported that the family had relocated from Arizona, where they had a conviction on child abuse charges in the early 1990s. In the several years before the tragedy, they had been homeschooling for a time, but dropped out of compliance with the law and were presumed truant from that point.

Social services had contacted them on numerous occasions due to complaints from neighbors (unsanitary living conditions) and had threatened to remove the three children from the family. There were no parents in the home at the time of the deaths; all three victims were teenagers.

After the deaths, the parents were tried on various charges, but the only conviction was a misdemeanor for improper storage of firearms; charges of neglect or abuse were dismissed.

What a tragic story! In a tragedy like this, everyone looks to assign blame – and there is plenty of blame to go around. But were these tragic deaths caused by homeschooling as Gonzales implies in his coverage?

During the course of the report, Gonzales referred to this family, the Warrens, as a homeschooling family, even though the family had not been in compliance with the homeschool law for years. Gonzales had obviously made up his mind that this tragedy was indeed caused by homeschooling.

At one point during the CBS story, Vince Gonzales asks Marcia Herman-Giddens, a member of the state task force that reviewed the Warren case, this question: "The laws in North Carolina, do they protect children who are being homeschooled?"

Ms. Herman-Giddens replied, "I don't think they protect children because there is virtually no oversight."

The task force (on which Herman-Giddens served) concluded this: homeschool laws "allow persons who maltreat children to maintain social isolation in order for the abuse and neglect to remain undetected."